What is Heartburn?
Heartburn refers to a burning, painful feeling in the chest that is caused by acid reflux, when acid is pushed up from the stomach into the esophagus. 1 Acid reflux is a common issue in adults. In fact, 28% of adults in North America experience gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a condition that results in frequent heartburn. 2
Common Symptoms of Acid Reflux
In addition to heartburn, several other symptoms can let you know that you are experiencing acid reflux. Those with acid reflux can experience all or some of these symptoms and may find that they worsen or lead to more symptoms over time. 3
- Heartburn (a burning sensation in the chest and/or throat)
- Difficulty swallowing
- Pain when swallowing
You can try many natural approaches today to help relieve acid reflux and heartburn. The following lifestyle and dietary changes may make an impact, and be sure to speak to a naturopathic doctor for a health plan tailored to you. An ND will work with patients to uncover the root cause of heartburn, which can include low stomach acid, imbalance in the microbiome, gastrointestinal infections and food sensitivities.
Change Up Your Sleeping Position
Heartburn is often worse at night when you are lying in bed, so adjusting your sleeping position can help to reduce symptoms. 4 Studies show that sleeping on your left side can relieve painful reflux symptoms and make it easier to sleep. 5 The esophagus enters the stomach from the right side. This means that when you sleep on your right side, stomach acid covers the lower esophageal sphincter, but when you sleep on your left side, the lower esophageal sphincter stays above the stomach acid. 6
Those with GERD-related pain can also benefit from sleeping with their head elevated. 7 Try propping up with pillows or a wedge under your upper body.
Eat Small Meals More Frequently
Acid reflux usually happens after eating a meal, especially a large one. 8 Eating more frequent, smaller meals throughout the day may help prevent heartburn. 9 If you usually eat just two or three large meals throughout the day, try opting for five or six small meals and see how it affects your acid reflux.
Limit These Foods
In addition to eating large meals, eating specific foods can trigger acid reflux. These include foods that are spicy, acidic, and/or high in fat. 10 11
If you experience frequent heartburn, try limiting or cutting out these foods first:
- Onions, especially raw
- Citrus fruits
- Coffee and other caffeinated beverages
- Fried foods
- High-fat meats such as bacon and sausage
- Peppermint and spearmint (too much can relax the muscle at the end of the esophagus)
- Carbonated beverages
- Alcoholic beverages
- Chili peppers
Address Your Microbiome
Naturopathic doctors address nutritional health at the core of patient concerns. Your microbiome may be imbalanced, leading to gastrointestinal symptoms like GERD. NDs will work with you:
- to find the root cause of the imbalance including gastrointestinal infections,
- to address underlying food allergies/sensitivities,
- and support healthy digestion with supplements and digestive enzymes,
- and may recommend fermented foods and pre or probiotics to restore your microbiome.
Long term reflux can increase the risk of esophageal cancer and should not go unaddressed.
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